The powers that be at the Golden Globes aren't "passionate" about Mel Gibson's (search) hugely popular contribution to film this year, nor did the mercury rise over Michael Moore's (search) inflammatory, record-breaking documentary.
Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11" — two of the most buzzed-about, divisive and lucrative movies of the year — weren't nominated in any category by Globe voters, leading some to suggest the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (search) was trying to avoid a flare-up at Sunday's ceremony.
"I don't think they care about being PC — I just think they wanted to stay out of any controversy that could affect them," said FOXNews.com gossip columnist Roger Friedman, a regular at the Globes.
There are, of course, official reasons for the omissions. "Fahrenheit," the top-selling documentary of all time, was easy to overlook because documentaries aren't eligible for consideration in any category, according to HFPA spokesman Michael Russell.
As for "The Passion," it wouldn't have been eligible for either of the best picture Globe categories (one for drama, one for comedy or musical), because nominees have to be mostly in English — and Gibson's version of the end of Christ's life is mostly in Aramaic.
"Passion" could have been considered for best foreign-language film and in other categories, Russell said. But the starkly violent, ninth-best-selling movie of all time — which Gibson released first to conservative Christian groups (bypassing advance screenings to critics) and distributed heavily in the Bible Belt — was ignored.
"The fact is that the five movies with the most votes from members got nominated," Russell said. "There's no discussion of why."
But fans of either film and conspiracy theorists alike might think there are other, more political things going on. Moreover, some say the exclusion of two of the most hyped and watched films of the year from the Globes competition is further evidence that Hollywood is out of touch with the people.
Case in point: Among the films that did snag nominations in the best picture, actor and/or director categories are "Sideways," "The Aviator," "Finding Neverland," "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," most of which, with the exception of "The Aviator" and "Ray," have been largely ignored by theatergoers, despite critical raves.
Moore and Gibson, meanwhile, took home top prizes in the Internet-voting-based "People's Choice Awards" (search) that aired this week, though there were reports of stuffed ballots, thanks to heavy campaigning by the two filmmakers.
However, it's not unusual for the box-office winners and awards winners to be, well, two different kettles of fish.
"Just because something was popular doesn't mean it was a winner," said Friedman. "Otherwise Sylvester Stallone would have 10 Oscars. ... The Academy saying something is better than something else — that's their artistic judgment. People vote with their tickets."
Indeed, entertainment industry insiders say "The Passion" got snubbed simply because the critics disagreed with the American viewing public and decided it just wasn't a good film.
"Everyone has long suspected that Mel Gibson was insane," said Anderson Jones, a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which handed out the Critics Choice Awards (search) this week. "Then 'The Passion of the Christ' confirmed it. ... It is just a terrible movie."
Added Tom O'Neil, host of the awards-predicting Web site Goldderby.com: “Everywhere, people are looking for a conspiracy: liberal Hollywood versus conservative mainstream America. That is not the case this year. ‘Fahrenheit’ wasn’t eligible. And a vast majority of film critics decided that ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was a bad movie.”
Russell dismissed the notion that in steering clear of two of the most provocative flicks of 2004, the Globes show — known as the rebellious little sister of the Oscars — will eliminate its typical element of surprise and be more staid this year.
Viewers know to expect the unexpected at the notoriously spontaneous and often outrageous awards ceremony, he said. "There are always some unpredictable moments."
Whether the Globes will foreshadow the Jan. 25 Oscar nominations (and the Feb. 27 Oscar presentations) remains to be seen. Insiders say Moore, the 2002 "Documentary Feature" winner for "Bowling for Columbine," has taken himself out of the running for that category and is campaigning instead for a "Best Picture" nod. Gibson is not campaigning for an Oscar.
Hollywood gurus predict that "Passion" and "Fahrenheit" could wind up getting nominations in the cinematography, technical or even screenplay categories.
But they don't think The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (search) will bypass certain films to avoid a brouhaha.
"The Oscars don't really care about politics or controversy," Jones said. "They welcome controversy. Politics and controversy equal ratings."